Language Development – School Readiness

Language Development

Parents often struggle with the question of when their child is school-ready. In my experience of many years of teaching at an inclusive teaching school, the one thing I can say with certainty is that there is no “one size fits all” answer.  Some parents think it’s a question of maturity; others that their child should be able to recognise numbers and letters, but this is actually a very small part of it.

Let’s look at 4 core aspects of school readiness.

  1. Language Development
  2. Physical & Motor Development
  3. Cognition
  4. Emotional & Social Development
  5. Approaches to Learning

Below is a visual representation:

A guide to School Readiness

This week we will delve into Language Development which is one of the core skills that needs to be in place before entering formal schooling. When talking about Language Development we need to consider three aspects:

Receptive Language (understanding)

Expressive language (using language)

Articulation (pronunciation of sounds in words)

Receptive language is the understanding of spoken language. Receptive language is the first communication skill a child learns. From the womb babies respond to familiar sounds and voices. Receptive language can also be seen as the input of language.

Why is this important at school? It is important in order to:

  • communicate successfully
  • follow instructions
  • learn sounds, then build words
  • access the curriculum successfully
  • engage in activities and academic activities
  • respond appropriately

Difficulties with receptive language may lead to concentration and language difficulties and behavioural issues. It can also lead to difficulties in forming friendships.

Expressive language is a very broad term. In short, it refers to the child’s ability to use language to communicate thoughts, feelings and ideas. Expressive language skill is one of the most powerful predictors of a child’s ability to learn to read and succeed at school. A child with a limited vocabulary will find it difficult to write good sentences, produce creative writing pieces and deliver orals of good quality.

 Articulation: Articulation can be described as the act of speaking clearly. It is important to be able to pronounce sounds, words and sentences clearly in order to be easily interpreted and understood by others. Unclear speech can impact significantly on how well a child interacts with adults and peers, and can affect the development of language and social skills. A child who is having difficulties being understood can become frustrated and angry, which may lead to behavioral issues. It also impacts self-esteem, self-confidence, reading and writing. Articulation is also important in literacy skills such as reading and the correct spelling of words.

What can I, as a parent, do?

Research demonstrates the importance of a rich environment for infants. Infants’ brains are developing rapidly, and that brain development is strongly influenced by what is going on around them. The more that these infants are embedded in a complex language environment, the more that their language abilities develop. That early development gives them a huge advantage as they start school. You, as parents, are therefore the primary source of this development.

Tell stories

Read stories

Encourage curiosity

Have conversations

I spy….

Encourage full sentences

Expect more: don’t use baby language

Talk, talk, talk (also listen)

Encourage an opinion

Take trips and do research prior to the trip

Have discussions

Model a rich vocabulary

Play magic bag: describe what you feel, give clues about the bag.